Eleven susceptibility loci for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) were identified by previous studies; however, a large portion of the genetic risk for this disease remains unexplained. We conducted a large, two-stage meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in individuals of European ancestry. In stage 1, we used genotyped and imputed data (7,055,881 SNPs) to perform meta-analysis on 4 previously published GWAS data sets consisting of 17,008 Alzheimer’s disease cases and 37,154 controls. In stage 2,11,632 SNPs were genotyped and tested for association in an independent set of 8,572 Alzheimer’s disease cases and 11,312 controls. In addition to the APOE locus (encoding apolipoprotein E), 19 loci reached genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10−8) in the combined stage 1 and stage 2 analysis, of which 11 are newly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
The highly complex structure of the human brain is strongly shaped by genetic influences1. Subcortical brain regions form circuits with cortical areas to coordinate movement2, learning, memory3 and motivation4, and altered circuits can lead to abnormal behaviour and disease2. To investigate how common genetic variants affect the structure of these brain regions, here we conduct genome-wide association studies of the volumes of seven subcortical regions and the intracranial volume derived from magnetic resonance images of 30,717 individuals from 50 cohorts. We identify five novel genetic variants influencing the volumes of the putamen and caudate nucleus. We also find stronger evidence for three loci with previously established influences on hippocampal volume5 and intracranial volume6. These variants show specific volumetric effects on brain structures rather than global effects across structures. The strongest effects were found for the putamen, where a novel intergenic locus with replicable influence on volume (rs945270; P = 1.08 × 10−33; 0.52% variance explained) showed evidence of altering the expression of the KTN1 gene in both brain and blood tissue. Variants influencing putamen volume clustered near developmental genes that regulate apoptosis, axon guidance and vesicle transport. Identification of these genetic variants provides insight into the causes of variability inhuman brain development, and may help to determine mechanisms of neuropsychiatric dysfunction.
Introduction We identified rare coding variants associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in a 3-stage case-control study of 85,133 subjects. In stage 1, 34,174 samples were genotyped using a whole-exome microarray. In stage 2, we tested associated variants (P<1×10-4) in 35,962 independent samples using de novo genotyping and imputed genotypes. In stage 3, an additional 14,997 samples were used to test the most significant stage 2 associations (P<5×10-8) using imputed genotypes. We observed 3 novel genome-wide significant (GWS) AD associated non-synonymous variants; a protective variant in PLCG2 (rs72824905/p.P522R, P=5.38×10-10, OR=0.68, MAFcases=0.0059, MAFcontrols=0.0093), a risk variant in ABI3 (rs616338/p.S209F, P=4.56×10-10, OR=1.43, MAFcases=0.011, MAFcontrols=0.008), and a novel GWS variant in TREM2 (rs143332484/p.R62H, P=1.55×10-14, OR=1.67, MAFcases=0.0143, MAFcontrols=0.0089), a known AD susceptibility gene. These protein-coding changes are in genes highly expressed in microglia and highlight an immune-related protein-protein interaction network enriched for previously identified AD risk genes. These genetic findings provide additional evidence that the microglia-mediated innate immune response contributes directly to AD development.
Oxidative damage to DNA may play a role in both normal aging and in neurodegenerative diseases. We examined whether Alzheimer's disease (AD) is associated with increased oxidative damage to nDNA and mtDNA in postmortem brain tissue. We measured the oxidized nucleoside, 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine (OH8dG), in DNA isolated from three regions of cerebral cortex and cerebellum in 13 AD and 13 age-matched controls. There was a significant threefold increase in the amount of OH8dG in mtDNA in parietal cortex of AD patients compared with controls. In the entire group of samples there was a small significant increase in oxidative damage to nDNA and a highly significant threefold increase in oxidative damage to mtDNA in AD compared with age-matched controls. These results confirm that mitochondrial DNA is particularly sensitive to oxidative damage, and they show that there is increased oxidative damage to DNA in AD, which may contribute to the neurodegenerative process.
A major theory of aging is that oxidative damage may accumulate in DNA and contribute to physiological changes associated with aging. We examined age-related accumulation of oxidative damage to both nuclear DNA (nDNA) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in human brain tissue. We measured the oxidized nucleoside, 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine (OH8dG), in DNA isolated from 3 regions of cerebral cortex and cerebellum from 10 normal humans aged 42 to 97 years. The amount of OH8dG, expressed as a ratio of the amount of deoxyguanosine (dG) or as fmol/micrograms of DNA, increased progressively with normal aging in both nDNA and mtDNA; however, the rate of increase with age was much greater in mtDNA. There was a significant 10-fold increase in the amount of OH8dG in mtDNA as compared with nDNA in the entire group of samples, and a 15-fold significant increase in patients older than 70 years. These results show for the first time that there is a progressive age-related accumulation in oxidative damage to DNA in human brain, and that the mtDNA is preferentially affected. It is possible that such damage may contribute to age-dependent increases in incidence of neurodegenerative diseases.
The modern era of drug development for Alzheimer’s disease began with the proposal of the cholinergic hypothesis of memory impairment and the 1984 research criteria for Alzheimer’s disease. Since then, despite the evaluation of numerous potential treatments in clinical trials, only four cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine have shown sufficient safety and efficacy to allow marketing approval at an international level. Although this is probably because the other drugs tested were ineffective, inadequate clinical development methods have also been blamed for the failures. Here we review the development of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease during the past 30 years, considering the drugs, potential targets, late-stage clinical trials, development methods, emerging use of biomarkers and evolution of regulatory considerations in order to summarize advances and anticipate future developments. We have considered late-stage Alzheimer’s disease drug development from 1984 to 2013, including individual clinical trials, systematic and qualitative reviews, meta-analyses, methods, commentaries, position papers and guidelines. We then review the evolution of drugs in late clinical development, methods, biomarkers and regulatory issues. Although a range of small molecules and biological products against many targets have been investigated in clinical trials, the predominant drug targets have been the cholinergic system and the amyloid cascade. Trial methods have evolved incrementally: inclusion criteria have largely remained focused on mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease criteria, recently extending to early or prodromal Alzheimer disease or ‘mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease’, for drugs considered to be disease modifying. The duration of trials has remained at 6 to 12 months for drugs intended to improve symptoms; 18- to 24-month trials have been established for drugs expected to attenuate clinical course. Cognitive performance, activities of daily living, global change and severity ratings have persisted as the primary clinically relevant outcomes. Regulatory guidance and oversight have evolved to allow for enrichment of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease trial samples by using biomarkers and phase-specific outcomes. In conclusion, validated drug targets for Alzheimer’s disease remain to be developed. Only drugs that affect an aspect of cholinergic function have shown consistent, but modest, clinical effects in late-phase trials. There is opportunity for substantial improvements in drug discovery and clinical development methods.
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